Aspects big and small of being locked down with nowhere to go

The small things hit first: no squash, badminton or visits to the local bar, no films or gigs. No anything much. And no bread flour, a triviality but bread-and-butter to my eyes.

Other personal aspects are more serious, such as not meeting family or friends. Elderly parents go unseen; two of our three grown-up children go unmet, even though one lives two miles away. Our youngest is cooped up here with us, kept away from the school where she is training to be a teacher.

For those fighting the coronavirus, this interlude is not worrying or wearisome but terrifying. At the time of writing the recorded death toll from the virus is 1,789, with 381 people dying yesterday, including, tragically, a 13-year-old boy.

Those are the facts and that is why we are being asked to live as we are.

Boris Johnson has the virus and, thinking about it, he’d been looking peaky for a while. His personal ratings are high over his handling of the crisis, yet that’s as much to do with the job as the man. President Trump’s ratings are also firm, even though his handling of the crisis has been abjectly crazy and wildly inconsistent.

Coming off the back of Brexit (ah, cosy old Brexit with its endless shouty rows), this crisis arrived when much of the media was still stuck in yah boo mode.

All that buttering-up of Boris set the tone for too long. Fortunately, journalists are now asking important questions: why is Britain behind in testing; why did ministers say they ‘missed the email’ from the EU offering ventilators (and was that just more Brexit blather)?

Also, remember that Johnson is a question-dodger at heart, as the shutting down of Parliament showed us. Everything is shut now too, making it harder for proper scrutiny. Remember, too, that Johnson never really gives interviews, the closest being those daily press briefings. Yesterday’s briefing was taken by Michael Gove, which was about as reassuring as finding a cocky, lying little devil perched at the foot of your bed.

To all this you can add the behaviour of the police. Let’s freely admit the police have a difficult job to do. Let’s also freely admit that the police have used their big boots to trample over what in normal times constitute our rights.

Derbyshire police have had the most criticism, for drone-shaming walkers and even putting black dye in a blue lagoon to deter visitors. On the radio the other morning, former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption branded such behaviour “disgraceful”, said it was close to a police state, and added that officers had no power to “enforce ministers’ preferences”.

Derbyshire chief constable, Peter Goodman, now admits Lord Sumption is right, but adds that he also must consider locals frightened by tourists trekking through their villages.

The new rules fall somewhere between law and ministerial edict. The police rushed into that gap as if in pursuit of criminals, rather than people going for a walk when perhaps they shouldn’t.

Anyway, two loaves made from my diminishing supply of bread flour are about to go in the oven.

Leave a Reply